Step right up, wanderlust seekers! Are you ready to uncover a wallet-friendly journey through the captivating streets of San Francisco? Well, you’re in luck because we’ve crafted the ultimate guide to help you navigate the city’s treasures on a budget. We’re dishing out the hottest tips and the latest updates to ensure your city exploration keeps the bank intact. From the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to the colorful alleys of Chinatown, we’ve curated a list of 15 places to visit San Francisco on a budget. So, let’s ditch the pricey tourist traps and dive into the heart of the city’s charm without burning a hole in your pocket!

15 Places To Visit San Francisco on a Budget

San Francisco is a fantastic city with a lot to offer visitors, but it can also be expensive. However, there are many ways to see the city on a budget. Here’s your San Francisco tourist guide with 15 places to visit San Francisco on a budget.

15. Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum San Francisco
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco – Shelly Puri

Explore over 18,000 Asian artworks spanning 6,000 years at the Asian Art Museum. This massive collection features everything from ancient jades to contemporary installations, all for a budget-friendly admission fee. With free days and special events, art lovers can immerse themselves in Asian culture without breaking the bank.

Things to do in the Asian Art Museum

Here are some things you can do at the Asian Art Museum:

  • Explore the Museum’s Vast Collection of Asian Art

The Asian Art Museum houses an incredible collection of over 18,000 works of art from Asia spanning 6,000 years. You can wander through the galleries and see unique pieces from China, Japan, India, Korea, Cambodia, the Himalayas, and many other regions.

  • See the Special Exhibitions

The museum also hosts various special exhibitions throughout the year. These exhibitions focus on a specific culture, artist, or theme and are a great way to see something new and exciting. Before your visit, you can check the museum’s website for current and upcoming exhibitions.

  • Take a Tour

The Asian Art Museum offers a variety of tours, including docent-led tours, self-guided tours, and audio tours. Tours are a great way to learn more about the art on display and get the most out of your visit.

  • Attend a Program or Event

The museum offers a variety of programs and events throughout the year, including lectures, performances, and family-friendly activities. These programs and events are a great way to learn more about Asian art and culture in a fun and interactive way.

  • Relax in the Serene Gardens

The Asian Art Museum’s beautiful sculpture garden is a great place to relax and reflect after exploring the galleries. It is free to enter and a beautiful place to spend a quiet afternoon.

Tips for Visiting the Asian Art Museum on a Budget

Here are some tips for visiting the Asian Art Museum on a budget:

  • Free Admission Days

The museum offers free admission on the first Sunday of every month. This is a great way to visit the museum for free and see the permanent collection.

  • Buy a CityPASS

The CityPASS is a discounted ticket for admission to several San Francisco attractions, including the Asian Art Museum. If you plan to visit a few other attractions, the CityPASS can be a great way to save money.

  • Pack a Lunch.

The museum has no food service, but you can bring your lunch. The area also has several cafes and restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat before or after your visit.

  • Take Advantage of Free Events

The museum offers free events throughout the year, including lectures, performances, and family-friendly activities. These events are a great way to learn more about Asian art and culture for free.

  • Become a Member

If you plan on visiting the museum frequently, you may want to consider becoming a member. Members get free admission to the museum, discounts on special exhibitions, and other benefits.

14. De Young Museum

De Young Museum San Francisco
De Young Museum, San Francisco – MarioR

Discover the De Young Museum, a budget-friendly attraction in San Francisco. The de Young Museum is a fine arts museum with a collection of American, Asian, and African art. San Francisco residents can enter for free on the first Saturday of every month. It’s a must-visit spot with stunning architecture and beautiful surrounding gardens that won’t strain your wallet.

Things to do in the De Young Museum

Here are some things you can do at the De Young Museum:

  • Explore the Vast and Eclectic Collections

The De Young Museum houses various art objects from across the globe and throughout history, including American art from the 17th century to the present day, European paintings, sculptures from Africa and Oceania, textiles, costumes, and more. You can find everything from ancient Mesoamerican figurines to paintings by European masters like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso to fashion designs by Coco Chanel.

  • See Special Exhibitions

The De Young Museum also hosts various special exhibitions throughout the year. These exhibitions can focus on a wide range of topics, from the art of a particular culture or period to the work of a particular artist.

  • Relax in the Beautiful Sculpture Garden

The De Young Museum’s sculpture garden is great for relaxing and enjoying the outdoors. It features works by both well-known and lesser-known artists.

  • Take a Docent-Led Tour

Docent-led tours are a great way to learn about museums’ collections and exhibitions. Tours are available on various topics and offer an in-depth look at the museum’s offerings.

  • Have Lunch at the Cafe

The De Young Museum has a cafe that offers a variety of food and beverage options. It’s a great place to grab a bite to eat before or after your visit to the museum.

Tips for Visiting the De Young Museum on a Budget

Here are some tips for visiting the De Young Museum on a budget:

  • Buy Tickets Online in Advance

Tickets are often cheaper when you buy them online in advance.

  • Take Advantage of Free Admission Days

The De Young Museum offers free admission on the first Tuesday of every month from 2-9 pm.

  • Pack a Lunch

There are a few places to eat around the museum, but they can be expensive. If you’re on a budget, you can pack a lunch in the museum’s sculpture garden.

  • Become a Member

It may be worth joining if you plan to visit the museum frequently. Members get free admission to the museum and discounts on special exhibitions, events, and cafe purchases.

  • Check for Discounts

The De Young Museum discounts various groups, including seniors, students, and AAA members. Be sure to ask about discounts when you purchase your tickets.

13. Exploratorium

Exploratorium San Francisco
Exploratorium, San Francisco – Zsolt Mátyás

The Exploratorium is a must-visit for science lovers. This hands-on museum lets you tinker with exhibits, unravel scientific phenomena, and see the world in a new light—all for a reasonable admission fee. To maximize your savings, consider using a discount city pass to bundle it with other attractions.

Things to do in the Exploratorium

The Exploratorium in San Francisco is a renowned museum known for its hands-on exhibits and interactive experiences focusing on science, art, and human perception. Here are some things to do while visiting the Exploratorium:

  • Exploration of Exhibits

The Exploratorium boasts over 600 exhibits, ranging from biology and physics to social science and art. Spend time exploring these exhibits, many of which are interactive and encourage visitors to engage directly with scientific phenomena.

  • Tactile Dome

Experience the Tactile Dome, a unique exhibit where visitors crawl, slide, and touch through a series of chambers entirely in the dark, relying solely on their sense of touch.

  • Bay Observatory Gallery

Enjoy stunning views of the San Francisco Bay while exploring exhibits related to local ecology, climate, and the environment.

  • Outdoor Exhibits

Don’t miss the outdoor exhibits, including the mesmerizing fog bridge and various installations along the waterfront that provide insight into natural phenomena.

  • Art Installations

Appreciate the intersection of science and art through various art installations throughout the museum.

  • Demonstrations and Workshops

Check the schedule for demonstrations and workshops led by museum educators. You can participate in experiments at these events and learn more about scientific concepts.

  • Observing Demonstrations

Take time to watch demonstrations by staff members showcasing scientific principles in action. These demonstrations are both entertaining and educational.

  • Café and Gift Shop

Take a break at the museum’s café, which offers snacks and beverages. You can also browse the gift shop for unique science-themed souvenirs.

Tips for Visiting the Exploratorium on a Budget

Here are some tips for visiting the Exploratorium on a budget:

  • Free Admission Days

The Exploratorium offers several free admission days throughout the year. Its free admission for all visitors is on the first Tuesday of every month from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

  • Discounted Tickets

Look for discounted tickets through third-party websites, group rates, or special promotions offered by the museum.

  • CityPASS or Go San Francisco Card

Consider purchasing a CityPASS or Go San Francisco Card, which offers discounted admission to multiple attractions, including the Exploratorium.

  • Membership Benefits

If you live locally or plan to visit the museum multiple times, consider purchasing a membership. Members often receive free or discounted admission and other perks, such as discounts on special events and purchases.

  • Bring Your Food

While the café offers convenient options, bringing snacks or a packed lunch can help save money on dining expenses.

  • Public Transportation

You can reach the museum by public transportation instead of paying for parking. The Exploratorium is easily accessible by bus, tram, or ferry.

  • Utilize Free Resources

Take advantage of free resources offered by the museum, such as online exhibits, educational videos, and downloadable activities, which can enhance your visit without any additional cost.

12. Ferry Building Marketplace

Ferry Building Marketplace San Francisco
Ferry Building Marketplace, San Francisco

Nestled along the Embarcadero, the Ferry Building Marketplace beckons with its vibrant atmosphere and diverse offerings. Explore artisanal shops, sample local delicacies at budget-friendly prices, and soak in stunning views of the Bay Bridge. From fresh produce to gourmet treats, this bustling hub embodies San Francisco’s culinary spirit without breaking the bank.

Things to do in the Ferry Building Marketplace

Here are some things you can do at the Ferry Building Marketplace:

  • Explore the Ferry Building Marketplace

This bustling marketplace has over 80 merchants selling everything from fresh produce and meats to artisan cheeses and baked goods. You can find local and regional specialties, perfect for creating a gourmet picnic basket or sampling a variety of flavors.

  • Ferry Building Marketplace Farmers Market

Held Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm, the Ferry Building Marketplace Farmers Market is the largest producer-only farmers market in the city. Here, you can meet local farmers and buy the freshest seasonal fruits, vegetables, flowers, and plants.

  • Enjoy a meal on the waterfront patio

The Ferry Building Marketplace has a number of restaurants with outdoor seating on the waterfront patio. This is a great place to relax and enjoy a delicious meal with a view of the bay. Whether you want seafood, pizza, or something else entirely, you’ll find it here.

  • Take a cooking class

Some of the vendors at the Ferry Building Marketplace offer cooking classes. These are great ways to learn how to cook some of your favorite dishes or to try something new.

  • Browse the shops

In addition to food vendors, the Ferry Building Marketplace also has a number of shops selling kitchenware, souvenirs, and other goods.

  • Catch a ferry to Sausalito or Tiburon

If you’re looking for a fun activity after visiting the Ferry Building Marketplace, you can take a ferry to Sausalito or Tiburon. These charming towns are located across the bay and offer great views of the city skyline.

Tips for Visiting the Ferry Building Marketplace on a Budget

Here are some tips for visiting the Ferry Building Marketplace on a budget:

  • Plan Ahead

Look up the vendors and their offerings online to budget your expenses accordingly before your visit.

  • Sample Strategically

Instead of buying full portions, opt for samples or smaller portions from different vendors to try a variety of foods without breaking the bank.

  • Visit During Off-Peak Hours

Avoid weekends and lunchtime rushes when the marketplace can be crowded, and prices might be higher. Weekdays and early mornings are usually quieter.

  • Pack Snacks

Bring your own snacks or light meals to enjoy by the waterfront. This way, you can take advantage of the scenic views without spending extra money.

  • Utilize Farmers Market Deals

If you visit during one of the Farmers’ Market days (Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday), you can find deals on fresh produce and artisanal goods.

  • Set a Budget

Determine how much you’re willing to spend beforehand and stick to it by keeping track of your expenses as you explore the marketplace.

  • Take Advantage of Free Activities

Enjoy the marketplace’s ambiance, take in the views, and explore the historic Ferry Building without spending money on attractions.

11. Haight-Ashbury

Haight-Ashbury San Francisco
Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco – foodiedealma

Take a trip back to the 1960s in Haight-Ashbury, a historic district known for its role in the counterculture movement. Browse the vintage clothing stores, admire psychedelic murals, and people-watch on lively Haight Street. It’s a free immersion into San Francisco’s vibrant past.

Things to do in the Haight-Ashbury

Here are some things you can do at the Haight-Ashbury:

  • Explore the shops on Haight Street

Haight Street has various shops, from vintage clothing and record shops to head shops and bookstores. You can find everything from tie-dye shirts and peace signs to incense and essential oils.

  • See the houses where famous ’60s rockers lived

Haight-Ashbury was home to many famous musicians during the 1960s, including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and the Grateful Dead. You can visit the houses where they lived, although they are now private residences.

  • Stand at the corner of Haight and Ashbury

This is considered to be the heart of the Haight-Ashbury district. It’s a great place to people-watch and soak up the atmosphere.

  • Admire the beautiful Victorians

Haight-Ashbury is lined with beautiful Victorian homes. You can admire the architecture by walking down one of the side streets.

  • Check out the Murals

Several murals are painted on the buildings in Haight-Ashbury. These murals depict scenes from the 1960s and celebrate the counterculture movement.

  • Climb to the top of Buena Vista Park

Buena Vista Park is a steep hill that offers stunning city views. It also has hiking trails and a dog park.

  • Visit the Haight-Ashbury Museum

This small museum tells the story of the neighborhood’s history. It has exhibits on the Summer of Love, the music scene, and the social and political movements of the 1960s.

Tips for Visiting the Haight-Ashbury on a Budget

Here are some tips for visiting the Haight-Ashbury on a budget:

  • Free Attractions

Take advantage of free attractions such as street art, parks, and the Grateful Dead House. These experiences offer a taste of the neighborhood’s culture without spending a dime.

  • Shop Smart

While Haight-Ashbury has many tempting shops, be selective. Look for affordable finds at thrift stores and consignment shops, and consider setting a budget to avoid overspending.

  • Attend Free Events

Look for free events in the neighborhood, such as art exhibitions, street performances, or live music shows. These events entertain without breaking the bank.

10. Mission District

Mission District
Mission District, San Francisco – kyx

Explore the vibrant streets of San Francisco’s Mission District on a budget! Admire colorful murals adorning buildings while strolling through this diverse neighborhood. Indulge in delicious yet affordable food at local taquerias and cafes. Take advantage of Dolores Park’s lively atmosphere for a budget-friendly picnic with stunning city views. Dive into the mission’s rich culture and history without breaking the bank.

Things to do in the Mission District

Here are some things you can do at the Mission District:

  • Murals Tour

The Mission District is famous for its vibrant street art scene. Take a stroll around the neighborhood and explore the numerous murals adorning buildings and alleys. Balmy Alley is particularly renowned for its impressive collection of murals.

  • Visit Dolores Park

Enjoy a relaxing afternoon at Dolores Park, a popular spot for picnics, people-watching, and stunning city skyline views.

  • Explore Valencia Street

Valencia Street has eclectic shops, trendy boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Browse through unique stores and soak in the neighborhood’s artsy vibe.

  • Mission Dolores Park

Discover the historic Mission Dolores, one of San Francisco’s oldest surviving structures. Explore the adjacent Mission Dolores Park and learn about Spanish colonial history.

  • Try Mission-style Burritos

Indulge in the famous Mission-style burritos at one of the many taquerias in the neighborhood. These burritos are known for their generous portions and flavorful fillings.

  • Attend a Cultural Event

The Mission District is a hub of cultural diversity. Watch for festivals, art walks, and live performances celebrating the neighborhood’s rich heritage.

  • Visit Clarion Alley

Another hotspot for street art enthusiasts, Clarion Alley features an ever-changing display of murals addressing social and political issues.

  • Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts

Explore the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, which showcases exhibitions, performances, and workshops highlighting Latino culture and heritage.

  • Shop at the Alemany Flea Market

If you’re into bargain hunting, check out the Alemany Flea Market, one of the oldest flea markets in the Bay Area. You might find unique treasures and souvenirs at affordable prices.

  • Enjoy Nightlife

Check out the vibrant nightlife of the Mission District’s bars, clubs, and music venues. There’s something for everyone, from trendy cocktail bars to lively dance floors.

Tips for Visiting the Mission District on a Budget

Here are some tips for visiting the Mission District on a budget:

  • Walk or bike

The Mission District is a relatively small neighborhood, so getting around on foot or by bike is easy. This is a great way to save money on transportation.

  • Pack a picnic lunch

Dolores Park is the perfect spot. There are plenty of grocery stores in the neighborhood where you can pick up food and drinks.

  • Take advantage of free events

The Mission District often hosts free events, such as concerts, art walks, and cultural festivals. Check out the local listings to see what’s happening during your visit.

  • Skip the fancy restaurants

The Mission District has plenty of delicious and affordable places to eat. Stick to the taquerias, cafes, and local joints for the best deals.

  • Do some window shopping

Valencia Street is a great place to browse unique shops and boutiques. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, window shopping is still fun.

9. Palace of Fine Arts

Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco
Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

The Palace of Fine Arts is a beautiful Beaux-Arts building originally built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. Visit it for a free escape into grandeur. This architectural gem boasts Romanesque arches and a serene lagoon. Explore its walkways, capture postcard-perfect pictures, and soak in the rich history—all without spending a dime.

Things to do in the Palace of Fine Arts

Here are some things you can do at the Palace of Fine Arts:

  • Marvel at the Architecture

The Palace of Fine Arts is a masterpiece of Beaux-Arts architecture modeled after ancient Roman architecture. Walk around the lagoon and admire the grandeur of the rotunda, colonnades, and swan court.

  • Take Photos

The Palace is an incredibly photogenic spot. Whether you’re a professional photographer or just looking to capture memories, you will surely get great shots here.

  • Picnic on the Grounds

Pack a lunch and enjoy a leisurely picnic on the Palace grounds. There’s plenty of space to spread out and soak up the scenery.

  • Explore the Lagoon

Rent a paddleboat and explore the lagoon. You might even see some ducks or turtles!

  • Visit the Presidio

The Palace of Fine Arts is in the Presidio, a former military base now a national park. After seeing the Palace, explore the Presidio’s trails, museums, and historic buildings.

Tips for Visiting the Palace of Fine Arts on a Budget

Here are some tips for visiting the Palace of Fine Arts on a budget:

  • Go on a Free Walking Tour

Several free walking tours include the Palace of Fine Arts. These are a great way to learn about the Palace’s history and see other sights in the city.

  • Pack Your Food

As mentioned above, the Palace is an excellent spot for a picnic. Since no restaurants are on-site, you can pack your food and drinks to save money.

  • Take Public Transportation

The Palace of Fine Arts is easily accessible by public transportation. To get there, you can take the bus or Muni (San Francisco’s metro system).

  • Visit During Off-Peak Hours

The Palace of Fine Arts is less crowded on weekdays and early mornings. If you want to avoid the crowds, plan your visit accordingly.

  • Take Advantage of Free Activities

Near the Palace of Fine Arts, several free activities, such as hiking and biking in the Presidio, are available.

8. Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island San Francisco
Alcatraz Island, San Francisco

Discover the historic island that once housed infamous criminals. Alcatraz Island offers captivating tours showcasing its storied past as a federal prison. The affordable ferry ride from San Francisco provides stunning views of the city skyline and Golden Gate Bridge. Immerse yourself in the island’s rich history, exploring the cellblocks and hearing tales of daring escapes. An iconic attraction for budget-conscious travelers, Alcatraz offers a unique glimpse into America’s past.

Things to do at Alcatraz Island

Here are some things you can do at the Alcatraz Island:

  • Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour

Explore the infamous cell house where some of America’s most notorious criminals were once held captive. Learn about the prison’s and its inmates’ history through an audio-guided tour.

  • Alcatraz Island Gardens

Stroll through the island’s gardens, which offer stunning views of the San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge. Learn about the island’s natural history and the efforts to restore its native vegetation.

  • Alcatraz Island Lighthouse

Visit the historic lighthouse, which has been in operation since 1854. Learn about its significance in guiding ships through the treacherous waters of the San Francisco Bay.

  • Alcatraz Island Museum

Explore the museum exhibits, which provide insight into the island’s history as a military fortress, federal prison, and site of Native American activism.

  • Alcatraz Island Recreation Yard

Walk through the recreation yard where inmates once exercised and socialized. Enjoy panoramic views of the bay while imagining life inside the prison walls.

  • Alcatraz Island Audio Tour

Listen to firsthand accounts from former inmates and guards as you explore the island’s various areas. Gain a deeper understanding of daily life in Alcatraz.

  • Alcatraz Island Night Tour

Experience the island after dark with a guided night tour. Under the moonlight, you can hear ghost stories and legends while exploring the eerie surroundings.

  • Hike the Perimeter Trail

The 1.2-mile paved trail that circles the island offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco skyline, and the bay.

Tips for Visiting Alcatraz Island on a Budget

Here are some tips for visiting the Palace of Alcatraz Island:

  • Book in Advance

Tickets to Alcatraz Island often sell out quickly, especially during peak tourist season. Book your tickets online in advance to secure lower-priced tickets and avoid disappointment.

  • Opt for Early Morning or Evening Tours

Consider booking tours during off-peak hours, such as early morning or late afternoon. Ticket prices may be lower during these times, and the tours offer quieter experiences with fewer crowds.

  • Look for Discounts

Look for discounts and special offers on Alcatraz Island tickets. Some tour companies, travel websites, and local organizations may offer promotions or package deals that can help you save money.

  • Explore Free Attractions

Take advantage of the free attractions on Alcatraz Island, such as the gardens, lighthouses, and outdoor exhibits. These areas offer fascinating insights into the island’s history without additional cost.

  • Consider Combination Tickets

Some tour companies offer combination tickets, including visits to multiple attractions in San Francisco, including Alcatraz Island. Look for these bundled deals to maximize your savings.

7. Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument
Muir Woods National Monument, San Francisco – Chirag Shah

Immerse yourself in the grandeur of Muir Woods National Monument, home to towering coast redwoods. Wander among ancient redwoods, some over 1,000 years old, on accessible trails. Marvel at the towering redwoods, some standing over 250 feet tall, without spending a fortune. Take advantage of free entry for kids under 16 and plan your visit on a weekday to avoid crowds. Pack a picnic to enjoy amidst towering trees and soak in the tranquility of this majestic forest without breaking the bank.

Things to do at Muir Woods National Monument

Here are some things you can do at Muir Woods National Monument:

  • Hike among the giants

Muir Woods has several trails, but the most popular is the easy 1-mile loop trail that takes you past some of the park’s most impressive redwoods.

  • Visit Cathedral Grove

This is one of the most photographed spots in Muir Woods, and for good reason. The towering redwoods here are truly awe-inspiring.

  • Hike to the Fern Canyon

This short trail takes you through a lush canyon with ferns and other greenery.

  • Learn about the redwoods

The park has a visitor center with exhibits on the history and ecology of the redwoods.

  • Have a picnic

The park has several picnic areas, perfect for enjoying a meal surrounded by nature.

Tips for Visiting Muir Woods National Monument on a Budget

Here are some tips for visiting the Muir Woods National Monument:

  • Entrance fees are $15 for adults 16 and older and free for children 15 and under

Parking is free outside the park entrance, but you’ll need to catch a shuttle to the visitor center ($5 round trip for adults, $3 round trip for children ages 6–15). You can save money on parking by carpooling with friends or family.

  • Bring your food and drinks

A cafe is at the park entrance, but it can be expensive.

  • Visit during the off-season

The park is less crowded on weekdays and during the winter (November to March), and entrance fees are lower.

  • Consider taking public transportation

The Golden Gate Transit Authority Route 673 bus goes directly to Muir Woods from Sausalito.

  • Look for discounts

There are a number of discounts available for seniors, military members, and holders of the National Park Service Interagency Annual Pass.

6. Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks San Francisco
Twin Peaks, San Francisco – Volkan Yildiz

For breathtaking views of San Francisco without breaking the bank, head to Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks offers stunning 360-degree views of the city. You can hike to the top or take a cable car. Perched high above the city, this iconic spot provides panoramic vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge, the downtown skyline, and beyond. Pack a picnic and enjoy a sunset spectacle, or hike one of the trails for an invigorating experience. Twin Peaks is a must-visit destination for budget-conscious travelers seeking unforgettable sights in the City by the Bay. 

Things to do at Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks, San Francisco, is popular with locals and tourists. Here are some things you can do there:

  • Take in the Panoramic Views

The most popular activity at Twin Peaks is taking in the panoramic views of the city. The 360-degree vistas from the top of the peaks are truly stunning. You can see the entire city skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and much more.

  • Hiking and Biking

Several trails lead to the top of Twin Peaks. The hike is relatively easy but windy at the top, so dress accordingly. If you feel more adventurous, you can bike up to the peaks.

  • Visit the Easter Cross

The Easter Cross is a large white cross at the top of South Peak. It was originally erected in 1926 and has been a controversial landmark ever since.

  • Have a Picnic

Twin Peaks has plenty of grassy areas perfect for picnics. Pack a lunch and enjoy the views!

  • Relax and Enjoy the Scenery

Twin Peaks is a great place to relax and enjoy the scenery. Benches are scattered around the park, where you can sit and enjoy the views.

Tips for Visiting Twin Peaks on a Budget

Here are some tips for visiting the Twin Peaks:

  • Take Public Transportation

The Muni bus #37 goes directly to Twin Peaks. The fare is only a few dollars, and it’s a great way to avoid the hassle of parking.

  • Pack Your Food and Drinks

Twin Peaks does not have restaurants or cafes, so pack your food and drinks.

  • Go Early or Late in the Day

Twin Peaks can get crowded during the middle of the day, especially on weekends. To avoid the crowds, try to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

  • Bring Layers

The weather at Twin Peaks can change quickly, so bring layers of clothing. It can be windy and cool at the top, even on a sunny day.

  • Wear Comfortable Shoes

To reach the top of Twin Peaks, you must walk some distance, so wear comfortable shoes.

5. Lombard Street

Lombard Street San Francisco
Lombard Street, San Francisco

San Francisco’s Lombard Street, nicknamed “the crookedest street in the world,” is a free must-see. Walk or drive down the winding one-way street for a fun and scenic experience—follow the 5 mph speed limit.  This iconic landmark is a great way to experience the city’s charm without breaking the bank.

Things to do at Lombard Street

The main attraction at Lombard Street is, of course, driving or walking down the twisty section. Here are some other things you can do:

  • Take photos

The switchbacks and colorful flowers are an excellent backdrop for any photo. There are also great city views from the top of Lombard Street.

  • Walk down the street

This is a great way to experience the curves and see the flowers up close. There are sidewalks on either side of the street.

  • Drive down the street

This is a fun experience, but be aware that the speed limit is very slow (5 mph), and there can be a lot of traffic.

  • Explore the Russian Hill neighborhood

Lombard Street is in the Russian Hill neighborhood, a charming area with Victorian homes, shops, and restaurants.

  • Visit nearby attractions

Other attractions near Lombard Street include Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Coit Tower.

Tips for Visiting Lombard Street on a Budget

Lombard Street is a free attraction, so there’s no cost to enter. Here are some other tips to save money on your visit:

  • Walk or bike to Lombard Street

This is a great way to save money on transportation and see more of the city.

  • Pack a picnic lunch

Plenty of places to sit and enjoy a picnic lunch near Lombard Street.

  • Take advantage of free activities

Several free activities are available in San Francisco, such as hiking in Golden Gate Park or visiting the Ferry Building Marketplace.

  • Look for discounts on hotels and attractions

There are often discounts available on hotels and attractions in San Francisco. You can find these discounts by searching online or asking at the visitor information center.

4. Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco – Santosh Patil

Nestled along San Francisco’s waterfront, Fisherman’s Wharf offers a budget-friendly escape with scenic views, a lively atmosphere, and iconic attractions. Stroll along Pier 39 to watch playful sea lions or browse the shops and eateries. Enjoy budget-friendly seafood options at local eateries or pack a picnic to savor with a view of the bay. Admire the historic ships at the Maritime National Historical Park, which offers free admission. Don’t forget to capture the picturesque scenery of Alcatraz Island and the city skyline—all without spending a fortune.

Things to do at Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is a must-visit for any tourist in San Francisco. It’s a lively waterfront district with a variety of attractions, shops, and restaurants. Here are some of the things you can do there:

  • See the sea lions at Pier 39

There’s a large colony of sea lions that bark and lounge on the docks. You can watch them for free from several vantage points.

  • Take a ferry to Alcatraz Island

This former prison is now a popular tourist destination. Tours can be booked in advance.

  • Explore Pier 39

Pier 39 is a popular tourist destination with shops, restaurants, and attractions like Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and the Aquarium of the Bay.

  • Visit Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square is a former chocolate factory now a shopping and dining destination.

  • Ride a cable car

Cable cars are a funicular railway system that is a popular tourist attraction in San Francisco. You can catch a cable car at Powell and Market Streets and ride it to Fisherman’s Wharf.

  • Enjoy the views

Fisherman’s Wharf has excellent views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and San Francisco Bay.

  • Sample the fresh seafood

Fisherman’s Wharf is home to many seafood restaurants. Be sure to try clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl!

Tips for Visiting Fisherman’s Wharf on Budget

Fisherman’s Wharf can be a tourist trap, but there are ways to visit on a budget. Here are some tips:

  • Skip the souvenirs

Fisherman’s Wharf souvenirs can be expensive. If you must buy a souvenir, look for something small and inexpensive.

  • Take advantage of free activities

Fisherman’s Wharf offers many free activities, such as watching the sea lions, walking along the pier, and enjoying the views.

  • Look for deals on attractions

Many attractions in Fisherman’s Wharf offer discounts for seniors, students, and military members. You can also find discounts online or in travel brochures.

  • Consider buying a CityPASS

The CityPASS is a discounted ticket booklet that offers admission to several popular attractions in San Francisco, including some at Fisherman’s Wharf.

3. Chinatown

San Francisco's Chinatown
Chinatown, San Francisco – Petr-Vůjtek

For a free cultural immersion, head to San Francisco’s Chinatown, the oldest and largest in North America. Explore labyrinthine streets filled with affordable dim sum and unique shops. Mingle with locals in bustling Portsmouth Square and admire the architectural wonders of temples like Tien How. It’s a feast for the senses without breaking the bank.

Things to do in Chinatown

Here are some of the things you can do in Chinatown:

  • Explore the streets and alleys

Chinatown is a maze of narrow streets and alleys lined with shops, restaurants, and temples. Take your time wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere.

  • Visit a temple

There are several beautiful temples in Chinatown, such as the Tien How Temple and the Kong Chow Temple. These temples are a great way to learn about Chinese culture and religion.

  • Go for dim sum

Dim sum is a Cantonese tradition of enjoying small, steamed dishes. There are many dim sum restaurants in Chinatown.

  • Do some shopping

Chinatown is great for souvenirs, Chinese herbs, and other unique items.

  • Have tea at a teahouse

There are several teahouses in Chinatown where you can relax and enjoy a cup of tea.

  • Take a walking tour

Many companies offer walking tours of Chinatown, which are a great way to learn about the history and culture of the neighborhood.

  • See a Chinese opera

Chinese opera is a traditional form of theater that combines singing, acting, and acrobatics. It is occasionally performed in Chinatown.

  • Learn about Chinese culture

There are several museums in Chinatown, such as the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum, where you can learn about the history and culture of Chinese Americans.

Tips for Visiting Chinatown on a Budget

Chinatown is a great place to visit on a budget. Here are some tips:

  • Eat at Dim Sum

Dim sum is a relatively inexpensive way to try various Chinese dishes.

  • Skip the souvenirs

Souvenirs in Chinatown can be expensive. If you must buy a souvenir, look for something small and inexpensive.

  • Take advantage of free activities

There are many free things to do in Chinatown, such as exploring the streets and alleys, visiting a temple, and watching a Chinese opera performance (if there’s one happening during your visit).

  • Look for deals on restaurants

Many restaurants in Chinatown offer lunch specials and other discounts.

  • Attend a free cultural event

Free cultural events like lion dances and parades are often held in Chinatown.

2. Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Explore Golden Gate Park, a budget-friendly gem in San Francisco. Wander through lush gardens, visit the free-to-enter California Academy of Sciences on Sundays, or marvel at the Japanese Tea Garden’s tranquility. Take advantage of the Conservatory of Flowers or the Bison Paddock. With its countless attractions and natural beauty, Golden Gate Park offers a budget-friendly escape into the gentle touch of nature.

Things to do in Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, is a massive urban park offering various visitor attractions. Here are some of the things you can do there:

  • Explore museums and gardens

The park is home to several world-class museums, including the California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Museum, and the Asian Art Museum. It also has several beautiful gardens, such as the Japanese Tea Garden, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and the Stow Lake Boathouse.

  • Have a picnic or stroll through the gardens

Golden Gate Park is a great place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Plenty of grassy areas are perfect for picnics, walking, and biking paths.

  • Rent a paddleboat and explore Stow Lake

Stow Lake is a large lake in the park’s center. You can rent a paddleboat and enjoy a leisurely ride around the lake.

  • Visit the Japanese Tea Garden

The Japanese Tea Garden is a peaceful oasis in the city’s heart. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy a cup of tea. There is an admission fee to enter the garden.

  • See the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a natural history museum with exhibits on everything from dinosaurs to the rainforest. There is an admission fee.

  • Visit the de Young Museum

The de Young Museum is an art museum with a collection of American and international art. There is an admission fee.

Tips for Visiting Golden Gate Park on a Budget

Here are some tips for exploring Golden Gate Park on a budget:

  • Free Admission Days

Many of Golden Gate Park’s museums offer free admission. For example, the De Young Museum offers free admission every Saturday from 9 am to noon. The California Academy of Sciences has free admission every single Tuesday night from 6 pm to 9 pm. Be sure to check the websites of specific museums you’re interested in for their free admission hours.

  • Explore the Gardens

Golden Gate Park boasts several beautiful gardens that are free to enter. Stroll through the serene Japanese Tea Garden, wander through the California Native Plant Garden, or marvel at the colorful blooms in the Strybing Arboretum.

  • Picnic in the Park

Pack a delicious and affordable lunch to enjoy in one of Golden Gate Park’s many meadows or gardens. Stow Lake is a popular spot for picnicking, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

  • Rent a Bike

Golden Gate Park is a cyclist’s paradise. Rent a bike and explore the park’s many trails and pathways. Several bike rental shops are located near the park’s main entrances.

  • Free Events

The park hosts free events throughout the year. These could include concerts, Shakespeare in the Park performances, or art exhibits. Check the Golden Gate Park website or local event listings for upcoming events.

1. Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Visit San Francisco on a budget with the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge. This architectural wonder offers stunning city and bay vistas without spending a dime. Take a leisurely walk or bike ride across the bridge, soaking in panoramic views of the skyline and the Pacific Ocean. Experience the magic of this iconic landmark without breaking the bank, making memories to last a lifetime.

Things to do at Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge itself is a pedestrian-only zone for most of its length. Here are some activities you can do there:

  • Walk or bike across the bridge

It’s a 1.7-mile walk each way and offers stunning views of the San Francisco Bay and the city skyline. There are also bike rental shops located near the bridge.

  • Visit the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center

Learn about the history of the bridge, its construction, and its importance to San Francisco. The Welcome Center also offers stunning views of the bridge and the bay.

  • Take a docent-led walking tour

These tours are a great way to learn more about the bridge and its surroundings. They’re offered twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays.

Tips for Visiting Golden Gate Bridge on a Budget

Here are some tips for visiting the Golden Gate Bridge on a budget:

  • Walk or bike across the bridge

This is a fantastic, free way to enjoy the bridge and get some exercise at the same time. There are pedestrian/bike paths on both the east and west sides of the bridge. The walk/bike path is open from 5 am to 9 pm daily. Be sure to wear warm clothes and layers, as the bridge can be windy and foggy.

  • Take advantage of free public transportation

The Golden Gate Bridge is easily accessible by public transportation. You can take a Muni bus or ferry to the bridge.

  • Visit the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center

The Welcome Center is located on the south side of the bridge and offers free exhibits on the history and construction of the bridge. There’s also a bookstore where you can purchase souvenirs.

  • Take a free walking tour

San Francisco City Guides offers free walking tours of the bridge on Thursdays and Sundays. These tours are a great way to learn about the bridge’s history from a knowledgeable guide.

  • Enjoy the views from an accessible vantage point

Several places offer stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge for free, such as Battery Spencer, Lands End, or Marshall’s Beach.

  • Visit at night

The bridge is beautifully lit at night, making it a spectacular sight.


In conclusion, exploring San Francisco on a budget is possible and incredibly rewarding. With our curated list of “15 Places to Visit San Francisco on a Budget,” you can immerse yourself in the city’s rich culture, breathtaking scenery, and vibrant neighborhoods without breaking the bank. From iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge to hidden gems like the Mission District, there’s an affordable adventure awaiting every traveler. So pack your sense of adventure and discover the best of San Francisco without worrying about your wallet.


Q1. Are there affordable accommodations in San Francisco?

Yes, you can find budget-friendly accommodations in hostels, motels, and Airbnb rentals. Hotel booking websites also offer deals and discounts.

Q2. How can I save money on affordable dining options in San Francisco?

Look for affordable eateries, food trucks, and street vendors. If you have a kitchen, you can save by buying groceries and cooking meals.

Q3. Are there any tips for affordable shopping in the city?

Shop in thrift stores or local markets for unique, budget-friendly finds. If you’re on a tight budget, avoid high-end shopping districts.